Sermon,  Sermons

Recognizing Hope

First Sunday of Advent

worship service video

Advent: Coming, Arrival. And I think we’ve been living through this pandemic with a sense that we are just waiting for an arrival: the arrival of a viable vaccine; the coming time when we can gather in each other’s company without worrying about infecting each other; anticipating the time when we don’t have to wear a mask everywhere; looking to when things will get back to normal. Hope.

We have hope that these things will happen.

Sometimes, though, what we are waiting for is already here; we just don’t recognize it. Sometimes we look and look and search and wait, without opening our eyes to what already was and is and is already to come.

In Jesus’ lesson of the fig tree, Jesus shows us how we can anticipate that a thing will happen. We plant a seed and hope that the plant will grow. But, we also have to notice when the rain comes—or doesn’t—and whether it thrives, and look to see when weeds begin to crop up—and distinguish between the two. We anticipate that the seed will grow into the plant we’ve assumed will sprout from the ground. Yet, there is a whole lot of paying attention to, seeing what is actually going on every moment of that process. It. is. happening.

Immediately before this lesson, Jesus speaks of what will happen: the sun and the moon will no longer shine, the stars will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Swaths of clouds, great power and glory, winds and angels whirling across the earth and sky!

And the very next sentence, “From the fig tree learn its lesson.”

Wait. What?  

Well, yeah—no one has been noticing that there is darkness in the world, that the very earth seems to be trembling.

         In Isaiah 64 (1,2), the passage begins with: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known …that all might tremble at your presence!

         And then right after that it says, “When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past… no one has seen or heard or even perceived a God like you—one who works for those who wait for this God. Those who remember God and recognize where they might do good, do justly, love generously and with humility… but we stopped paying attention! we forgot what God looked like in each other—in those who bear God’s very image and likeness.

The earth is shaking right now, there is darkness right now—but we don’t recognize that God is already doing deeds we did not expect. Why don’t we expect that God is doing deeds—now?!

Keep awake! You don’t know when Jesus will show up. Remember from last week, the parable of the sheep and goats. Jesus, when? When were you hungry or thirsty and we took care of you? Jesus’ response, in as much as you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it to me.

We do good, do justice love generously, with humility because we have hope! We do these things, see the divine in the least of these because we anticipate God’s goodness in this world.   

What gives you hope? On social media. A Few answered:

God, Prayer, People loving each other,

And, from Beth, Hope that when the pandemic is over, people will be “more willing to listen, to change their perspectives.”

And one of Greer’s friends, I overheard her telling (now, she was on speaker phone, so everyone could hear their conversation!) she said she kept thinking about my Instagram post—she couldn’t think of what to put, but spent the day randomly asking people she talked with, ‘What gives you hope?’

And isn’t that how hope works? We see it in the context of community. We are shaped by, influence by, carried by the hope of one another! Sometimes, in order to see it, recognize it, you have to actually go looking for it.

We forget to look. We forget that we’re even looking for anything, hoping for anything. “Until Advent comes and knocks us upside the head with a not so subtle reminder.” (umcdiscipleship)

What gives you hope?

The sun.

And as it goes down…

We hope, we anticipate, The sun will rise again in the morning.

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